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England must give Barkley licence to run free at World Cup

| 05.06.2014

If England are to make it into the knockout stages of the World Cup their best hopes appear to lie in the pace and dribbling abilities of some of their rising stars.

It may have been the ‘B team’ that Roy Hodgson fielded against Ecuador, but some suspect defending aside, there were plenty of positives to come out of the action-packed 2-2 draw.

Namely, two displays of fearless ball-carrying from 20-year-old pair Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ross Barkley.

Unfortunately for the former, an awkward high-speed tangle in the middle of the park could yet spell a disastrously premature end to his World Cup if scans on his knee reveal ligament damage.

If, however, the Arsenal midfielder receives a clean bill of health for the Italy match then the 7/2 currently available that he starts England’s Group D opener should be snapped up in a jiffy.

As a fairly regular pick under Hodgson, the Ox was always going to be close to the first team come Brazil, but for Everton’s own midfield whizz kid, a place in the starting line-up had looked a far more distant cry.

Anyone who witnessed Barkley’s latest display against Ecuador should quickly be adjusting that thought process though; this young man is something very special.

Playing in the number 10 role, the Liverpudlian’s first thought when in possession was to drive at the heart of the defence and being such a gifted dribbler, he can wriggle away from lunging defenders in the blink of an eye.

Naturally, Everton’s shining star is still a little raw and can frustrate with his final decision around the box, but the way he set up Rickie Lambert showed there’s enough composure in his locker to match his ceaseless running.

Barkley is a 6/1-chance to start against Italy and Hodgson should throw caution to the wind by letting him off the leash, reminiscent of a certain Wayne Rooney who ended up taking Euro 2004 by storm as a marauding 18-year-old.

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Christian Crowther

Give Christian a sport with anything remotely spherical in it and he’ll happily while away the hours watching it on the box. However, he’d much prefer writing about, playing or betting on golf, football, cricket, tennis, snooker.... you get the picture.